Maybe Someone Can Explain This To Me

This is a serious question which I haven’t figured out yet, to wit, why do revolvers cost more than semi-auto handguns? It doesn’t make sense to me. In my experience, revolvers of a similar quality to the semi-autos I own (mid-range guns with good user reviews) sell for about twice the price.

In the first place, I have listened to countless explanations about how revolvers are more reliable than semi-autos because they are a simpler mechanism with fewer moving parts and therefore are far less prone to failures which are ‘common’ to semi-autos. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then the ‘simpler mechanism’ should translate into lower manufacturing costs and therefore lower retail prices, but it doesn’t.

Second, we have to consider the supply/demand question. In 2019 (the most recent year I found) revolvers accounted for only 16% of the US based manufacture of the two types. (I couldn’t find actual sales figures.) While that may seem to be an argument for ‘low supply=higher price’, I believe it actually means just the opposite. The difference in manufacturing output indicates that revolvers are in much lower demand than semi-autos and lower demand should translate to lower prices. Consider also that, in my experience, the gun dealers I shop with, both online and IRL, stock far fewer revolvers than semi-autos, which is another indicator of lower demand.

So why is it that a Ruger GP100 in .357mag/38sp, 3" or 4" barrel, retails for twice what a Ruger Security 9 goes for. The difference applies to MSRP as well, so it’s not just the retailers skewing the price.

One argument is that revolvers are ‘all steel’ as opposed most semi-autos are polymer framed to some degree. However, I’m seeing many revolvers being advertised as being made will alloy frames and other polymer components, so that argument no longer holds true.

Can anyone explain it to me? Please? I really want a revolver, but in my economic circumstances I just can’t justify the expense. Let me add that I’m not looking for a .22, or anything SAO, so the 'Wranglers" and SAA cowboy guns are right out.


I can’t tell you for sure, but have some ideas. First, the idea that revolvers sre simpler isn’t actually accurate. Yes, theyre simpler to operate, but the level of complexity in the clockworks, and the level of precision needed, seems to my eyes to be higher than the semiautos I own.

Next, I think a lot does relate to scale of manufacturing. With fewer people buying revolvers, the fixed costs of making each unit are spread over a smaller number of guns.

For example, a S&W J frame 642 in .38 is still a very popular revolver. It’s one of their most popular single guns still, and can be had for about $550. The same basic J frame, alloy frame and all, chambered in .22 LR is much less common. As such, it’s about $300 more, though it doesn’t have any more material in it or take any more labor to build. It’s just that much more expensive to tool up to make parts for it because the fixed cost of tooling is the same, but they’re making way fewer guns to spread it across.

From my experience, I have a couple S&W revolvers and one M&P shield. All are pretty popular models from S&W. The Shield semiauto was about 15% less expensive than the revolvers.


Just my opinion. I believe revolvers are more expensive because they have been around longer than semi-auto handguns. Revolvers go back to the 1800s and they were well made, and so were semi-auto pistols. When they first started filming cowboy movies they used revolvers. I assume a lot of those guns made it to old west museums and were used by famous cowboys such as Jesse James, Wyatt Erp, Doc Holliday and so on and so forth. I believe that’s why and some of those manufacturers are still making quality revolvers. The biggest revolver companies were Colt and Smith & Wesson. I know a lot of people who are collectors and prefer revolvers over Semi-autos. It could also be the craftmanship that gunsmiths put into the revolver itself. But there are some semi-auto pistols out on the market which are more expensive than revolvers. Once again this is only my honest opinion.


The price difference between revolvers and semi auto handguns may be due to the economies of scale in manufacturing. If, for example, the fixed costs of setting up the manufacturing line for either revolvers or semi autos is, say $250,000 (a made up number) and 10,000 semi-autos are produced to meet the expected demand, the average fixed costs would $25. On the other hand, if the expected demand for revolvers was 1,000 units, then the average fixed costs would be $250. To recover the fixed costs of a product with lower demand, the manufacturer would have to charge a higher price, everything else being equal.


I agree with Joseph. :slightly_smiling_face:


I think this is the majority of the reason for the pricing.

Revolvers are somewhat more reliable mostly because a bad round won’t stop them from functioning. Just pull the trigger again and you get to the next good round. But they require precision manufacturing and tight tolerances to get the timing right and actually in some cases have more parts than some pistols.

Most revolvers are also made with beefier and more expensive materials which along with the fact that they are usually produced in smaller quantities than many pistols can contribute to increased costs.


David38 (catchy handle Brother)
I agree with my fellow gunners above. You basically get
what you pay for, or pay what you get for :crazy_face:
Revolvers (in my Opinion) range the $$$ Gambit$$$$ from
hundreds of dollars (example)

around $350- 5 shot Charter arms .44 to Thousands for the Anaconda
or Python or even more! etc. I won’t spend $1500+ on a wheel gun (right now)
when I can get
An EAA 'Windicator: $440 (.357) a Rossi .357 (4-6" brrl) $475-500
You don’t HAVE to spend a lot for a great Wheel gun. My opinion once again.
But as my esteemed college’s have stated these guns may seem less complicated
So, good luck on your quest Brother.


I appreciate all the good explanations and info; thanks to all so far. I suppose part of my problem is that the two revolvers I really want are the Chiappa Rhino and the S&W Schofield. If only the Schofield was available in DA/SA.


A revolver is simpler looking, but that will lead to increased machining cost, particular the frame and cylinder, as several components in a pistol are combined in a revolver.Most pistols these days are stamped sheet metal and injection molded plastic, and a barrel. If you price a metal framed pistol, the price is at or above most revolvers, and most are casting the frame which is cheaper than forging. Springfield Armory is one of the only major players forging their steel pistol frames iirc…
Edit to add, yeah, timing area of a revolver, mentioned by @Joseph488 …far from my forte’ but agree this could involve precision machining which isn’t cheap.


Kind of a cool tour video for the S&W revolver fans.


Well, I guess that explains the reason why revolvers cost more that their semi-autos. My daughter has a 642(I think) Lady Smith and it has some beautiful engraving. It’s so beautiful were don’t really want to fire it.


Welcome to the community! I hope she does choose to fire her gun and practice with it, if it’s her self defense tool. The 642 is a great little defensive revolver, I have 2 of them. If she’s keeping it as a collector piece, then keeping it pristine and unfired could make good sense. Anyway, welcome aboard.


Welcome to the family brother @James1360 and thanks for joining us.

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Hello and welcome @James1360

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Thanks for the welcome. It’s taken some time to get here.

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Which is most expensive, machined metal or injection molded plastic? You just answered your question. Same reason seeing tons of S&W and Ruger plastic guns and few revolvers at the gun shop these days. More money to be made selling plastic. Check out a high quality non plastic auto-they’re not cheap either.

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